There are various definitions for what constitutes a nation, however, which leads to several different strands of nationalism. It can be a belief that citizenship in a state should be limited to one ethnic, cultural, religious, or identity group, or that multinationality in a single state should necessarily comprise the right to express and exercise national identity even by minorities. The adoption of national identity in terms of historical development has commonly been the result of a response by influential groups unsatisfied with traditional identities due to inconsistency between their defined social order and the experience of that social order by its members, resulting in a situation of anomie that nationalists seek to resolve. This anomie results in a society or societies reinterpreting identity, retaining elements that are deemed acceptable and removing elements deemed unacceptable, to create a unified community. This development may be the result of internal structural issues or the result of resentment by an existing group or groups towards other communities, especially foreign powers that are or are deemed to be controlling them. National symbols and flags, national anthems, national languages, national myths and other symbols of national identity are highly important in nationalism.
The word nation was used before 1800 in Europe to refer to the inhabitants of a country as well as to collective identities that could include shared history, law, language, political rights, religion and traditions, in a sense more akin to the modern conception.